October 4, 2012

Kids, Sex, and the Internet

Western society, and we in America in particular, have long been conflicted and very hypocritical about sex. Americans have both Dan Savage and purity balls, we're still struggling to accept same-sex marriages, and prostitution is illegal in 49 of our 50 states. We're also confused about what sex is.

I think the recent backward moves in sex ed can be attributed to the repressed older generation convulsing as it dies, and it's being very loud and obnoxious in the process.

People have always had sex (that's why we're still here, obviously), and they've always started in their teens. But for far too long, and for reasons rooted in outdated reproductive, societal, and religious structures, we in Western society have taught kids that sex is dangerous, shameful, dirty, and not to be talked about. And only for straight married people to make babies, of course. But that's all a lie.

We really ought to be honest with our kids that sex is supposed to be healthy, fun, and nothing to be ashamed about. For humans, sex is not just about making babies—it's also recreational. Of course it's a private subject, but there are times when we should be at least a little open about it. Most people will become sexually active in their teens, and they need to learn how to be safe, respectful, and happy about it when they do.

The Internet helps to debunk the lie, but it's not enough on its own. As with any other field of knowledge, without some background, you can easily get off track and misinform yourself about sex online. That's why parents and educators need to be honest with children too.

Kids don't suddenly figure that stuff out when they turn 18. Thinking otherwise is silly, and abstinence-only sex ed doesn't work. As far as sex education is concerned, knowledge is power.

I'm going to have kids someday, and they are, more than likely, going to become sexually active during their teenage years. I hope that before then, their mother and I (along with their school and other people they know and trust) can help them decide to do so knowledgeably and consciously, knowing why they're doing it, and what the results might be. At that point, I'll want to know that my kids are healthy and happy, and at least some of why that is.

My kids will make mistakes, as we all do. What I hope is that they will be strong and confident enough to overcome those mistakes, to learn from them, and become better human beings.

After all, isn't that the goal of being a parent?

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